Flipping ATM security to stop skimmers

New technology could protect people from card skimmers

It's financially frustrating when skimmers swipe your hard-earned cash from your account using a gas station card reader or ATM.  They can drain your money before you even know it happened.

A Bay area bank and its customers have been targeted by the crooks,  but now new technology's helping to outsmart skimmers and protect you.

Police say cameras captured the faces of two skimmers hacking the GTE Financial ATM in downtown Tampa in February.

“Right now, the holes in security are ATMs and gas stations. Not anymore with GTE.  We're plugging that hole,” says Chad Burney, GTE Financial SVP chief information officer/chief operating officer.

New technology from Diebold, called ActivEdge, is flipping ATM security, forcing customers to turn their card 90 degrees.

“What a skimming device does is as you insert the card, it reads the magnetic strip," Burney says. "When you insert the card the old-fashioned way, it would've read the magnetic strip as you insert the card. 

"With the new ATM machines, you're actually inserting the card horizontally. What that does is it doesn't allow the skimming device to actually read the card, If the bad guy tried to insert a skimming device in this machine, it would sense that foreign object in the machine. It would turn the gate red and start flashing red."

Bank customers are aware their data is coveted by crooks.

“I don't have a debit card. I just have an ATM card that way no one can steal my (stuff),” says one GTE Financial customer.

“I don't really think about it as much as at ATMs, more gas stations,” says ATM user Steve Summerall.

“My account getting hacked, that has happened to me once before,” says ATM user Debbie Phillips.

The price for protecting customers with the new technology is around $35,000 per machine.  But consider the alternative: the average skimming hit costs a bank $50,000 per ATM, plus customer confidence.

“They're not cheap, however securing our members data that's first and foremost.  We can't put a price on that,” says Burney.

GTE Financial hopes to have the 61 anti-skimmer ATMs up-and-running by the end of the summer and believes other bans and even gas stations will follow with this new technology. 

“You build a 10-foot wall, and they build an 11-foot ladder.  You’ve got to keep that wall building higher and higher,” says Burney.

Wells Fargo tells 10News that it fights skimmers by encouraging customers to use its new card-free ATM technology.  

"Security is at the heart of everything we do at Wells Fargo," a statement from the bank says. "We place significant efforts to ensure our online and mobile channels are secure, and we are continuously enhancing our controls to help protect our customers’ personal and account information. Using our new card-free ATM technology eliminates the risk of skimming, as customers can authenticate at the ATM using a one-time access code and their PIN instead of a card. Wells Fargo is the first large bank in the U.S. to have an entire fleet of card-free ATMs.”

Bank of America is working to rollout card-less ATMs as well and says it has upgraded all machines with a chip and pin system, so crooks can’t reproduce counterfeit cards.  Bank of America tells 10News that the company is committed to the safety and security of customers’ accounts and information.  It’s always looking at security measures to protect ATM transactions.  Bank of America encourages customers to be vigilant, notify staff if unusual activity is suspected at the ATM, and use online banking to help catch fraudulent activity.  The company has behind-the-scenes monitoring against fraud and doesn’t hold customers financially liable for unauthorized transactions.

While police continue to hunt for the GTE Financial crooks, customers have their own message for skimmers: “Get a real job,” says Summerall.

GTE Financial says skimmers have moved away from targeting stores with chip readers.  They now focus on ATMs and gas stations.  Banks are required to have the chip readers by October.  Gas stations have until 2020.

Here are some tips from police to protect your account from skimmers at the gas pump:

  • Only use gas pumps that require ZIP code entry
  • If using a debit card, run it as credit instead of using the PIN number
  • Check to make sure the gas pump dispenser cabinet hasn't been tampered with and the card slot doesn't feel loose
  • Use a pump as close to the front of the store as possible

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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